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May 8, 2013
This week's theme
Terms that appear offensive but aren't

This week's words
queer street
niggler
tar baby
cockshy
niggard

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

tar baby

PRONUNCIATION:
(TAHR bay-bee)

MEANING:
noun: Something to be avoided: a sticky situation or problem from which it's almost impossible to extricate oneself.

ETYMOLOGY:
After "Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby", one of the folk stories compiled by Joel Chandler Harris (1848-1908) in Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings. In the story, Brer Fox tries to trap Brer Rabbit by making a baby doll out of tar and puts it on the side of the road. Earliest documented use: 1881, in the above-mentioned story.

USAGE:
"The Nixon tar baby clung to Mr. Ford. A month after taking office he pardoned the ex-president, immediately dissipating much of the good will derived from his handling of the White House changeover."
Editorial; A Ford, Not a Lincoln; The Blade (Toledo, Ohio); Dec 28, 2006.

NOTES:
The term has developed racial overtones and should be used cautiously. Check out the Toledo Blade's follow-up about the use of the term in the above editorial.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Life is an adventure in forgiveness. -Norman Cousins, author and editor (1915-1990)

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